Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 05, 2020

Fight Belly Cramps

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They’re common with a Crohn’s flare -- especially right after you eat. To get a handle on this painful symptom:

  • Eat small portions of food every 3 to 4 hours.
  • Cut back on nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn, which cause cramping in some people with Crohn’s.
  • Ask your doctor about any meds that can help. They might call them antispasmodics or antidiarrheals. You’ll take them before meals.

Be Prepared for a Blowout

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Crohn’s doesn’t have a schedule, so it’s smart to have an emergency kit. Stash these must-haves in your backpack, purse, locker, desk drawer, or car.

  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Clean underwear
  • Clean shorts or pants
  • Large-sized freezer bags for dirty clothes

Better yet, keep emergency kits in a few places. And make sure you know where the bathrooms are.

Plan for a Healthy Baby

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If your disease isn’t active, chances are you can get pregnant as easily as other women your age. You may have more trouble if you’ve had major corrective surgery, such as a colectomy with J-pouch. The best time to conceive is when you’ve been in remission for at least 3 to 6 months and are off steroids. Most women with IBD (which includes Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis) can have healthy pregnancies, but your doctor will keep close track of you.

Keep Pregnancy Risks Down

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Use protection during flares. If you conceive, the disease is more likely to stay active during your pregnancy. You may also be more likely to miscarry or have a low birth weight baby. Also important: Wannabe parents should stay off methotrexate 3 to 6 months before trying to conceive, and while pregnant or nursing. The drug can cause serious harm to a fetus.

Exercise: It’s Good for You

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Not only is a good workout a major mood booster, some types may help with your Crohn’s symptoms. Try these: 

  • Swimming: Pain relief 
  • Strength training: Weight gain, better body composition
  • Aerobics: Better sleep
  • Aerobics and strength training: Less fatigue, stronger bones

Always check with your doctor before you start a new fitness plan.  

Beat Belly Bloat

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Certain foods can cause it or make it worse. Some common culprits -- and fixes:

  • Insoluble fiber, found in fruit and veggie skin. Cook or peel your produce.
  • Lactose, the sugar found in milk. If dairy bothers you, your doctor can test for lactose intolerance.
  • Gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Keep a food diary. If gluten is a trigger, your doctor may want to test you for celiac disease.

 

Manage Your Side Effects

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You’ll probably take medication long-term, and these drugs can cause side effects. If one makes you feel sick, ask your doctor to switch you to another. You can also ask about over-the-counter meds to ease headache and nausea. Keep in touch with your doctor, and follow their instructions if you’re being monitored for more serious side effects.

Talk About Sex Challenges

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Having sex -- or even talking about it -- can be uncomfortable. Disease, drugs, and surgery can affect your ability to perform. Crohn’s can also take a toll on your body image, which may keep you out of the mood in the first place. There are many solutions. Discuss your worries with a doctor you’re comfortable talking to. It doesn’t have to be the one who treats your disease. 

Find Sex Solutions

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From medications to support groups, there are plenty of ways to address your concerns:

  • Impotence: Ask your doctor about drugs or devices that can help you get -- and keep -- an erection.
  • Low desire: Rest and exercise; use music or a sexy movie to set the mood.
  • Ostomy concerns: Empty the pouch before sex; camouflage it with special underwear.
  • Embarrassment: Don’t hide your disease; talking freely about it can help.

Be Upfront About Fistulas

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These ulcers eat away the tissue between two body parts, like your bowels and your skin, or between your rectum and vagina. They can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, but it’s important to tell your doctor if you think you have one. They can give you antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the inflammation. Surgery may be an option if drugs don’t help.

Get Ahead of Your Flares

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Medications can make a big difference in your symptoms. You may reach remission that lasts for months or even years. Still, you might have a flare from time to time. Common triggers include stress, smoking, and not taking your drugs like you should. Or you might simply need to tweak the type or dose of your meds. Talk to your doctor about any big changes in symptoms.

Prep for Period Problems

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Irregular periods are common when you have Crohn’s. That’s because inflammation can interfere with hormones that help keep your cycle regular. Having good control of your Crohn’s can improve things, but don’t forget to stash a tampon or pad in your purse just in case. It’s normal for your Crohn’s symptoms to get worse the week before your period.  You don’t usually need to change your treatment.

Travel Wisely

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You’ve booked your vacation and planned your itinerary. You’re almost ready for a great trip -- so don’t let Crohn’s or a travel mishap get in your way.

  • Ask your doctor for the name of a doctor where you’re traveling. 
  • Carry your meds with you on the plane -- don’t pack them in a checked bag.
  • Bring enough to last the whole trip.
  • Get copies of all prescriptions before you go.

Bring an emergency blowout kit!

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Show Sources

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

Thinkstock Photos

 

SOURCES:

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America: “Diet and IBD,” “Emotional Factors Q&A,” “Fact Sheet: “Pregnancy,” “Diet, Nutrition, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” “Managing Flares and Other IBD Symptoms,” “The Intimate Relationship of Sex and IBD,” “Traveling With IBD,” “Understanding IBD Medications and Side Effects,” “What is Crohn’s Disease?” “Women & IBD.”

Just Like Me! Teens With IBD: “Life With Crohn’s & UC.”

Perez, C. Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, December 2009. 

PsychCentral: “Tips for Building Self-Esteem.”